Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How to Succeed in College: Balancing Work, Classes, and Fun

As I'm sure you know, I am a junior in college, and lately it feels like it's flying by. This year I have felt a definite shift in how busy I am and the work load I have for classes; things are starting to get serious, and while it's very scary, it's also pretty exciting. I'm starting to figure out what I want in life, and I feel like I'm finally getting a feel for balancing my life with everything that is in it - classes, work, clubs, and a social life. Because of this, I thought it would be fun to do a whole series about it on my blog, especially since there are a lot of people starting to think about their first year in college in September!

For the first post I'll be talking about how to balance your schedule, especially if you have a part-time job and want to have time for studying and having fun. It can be difficult, but it can definitely be done. Here's a couple of tips on how to get done, and what I do to keep my schedule balanced!

1. Get a planner and write in it religiously.
I'm sure you've seen those people in your classes who whip out their planners anytime the professor mentions any sort of date, but let me tell you, those people are ahead of the game. During my junior year of high school I started using my planner more, and once I got to college I made it a point to write everything down in it, because it helped me figure out the times I would be working, studying, going to class, or hanging out with friends. It can be difficult to remember to write everything down in your planner, but once it becomes a habit, you won't think twice about writing all your important dates down in it. I also like to sit down on Sunday or Monday and write down my work schedule and any other time commitments in my planner so I already have those dates in my head and I don't forget anything. This also makes it a lot easier to figure out the free time I have to have fun!

2. Additionally, make a to-do list for the week in your planner, or another notebook.
Whether those involve homework goals, errands you have needed to run for weeks now, or groceries you need to buy, this is super helpful for getting things done. It can be so easy to forget to get tasks done in college because you're extremely busy, but I find doing this helps to make sure I don't accidentally miss a due date for a class, or get swamped in random things I've needed to get done for weeks. This is also great to write down anything you need to get done for work, or anything you can do in advance to help clear up your schedule later.

3. Dedicate a certain amount of time to each part of your life.
Blocking off time for things like studying, doing homework, or having fun can be extremely helpful for balancing all areas of your life. This helps break your life up into a routine that will get more and more natural over time, so you're able to do all of the things that you want to do, while still getting the things you need to do, done. For me, I make sure I spend the time I have between classes doing homework, and if I don't have any to do, I will usually call my parents to make sure they know I am alive and well. I also usually have a lot of time during work to study (it's a campus job, so it's more geared towards students, which is really nice!), so I know that I'll get a lot of that done during my shifts throughout the week. After work I give myself some de-stressing time, and will usually watch something like Friends or Parks and Rec - something that doesn't need a lot of attention. It's so important to give yourself these structured times to get things done, that way you know you'll have time to give yourself a break both mentally and physically.

4. If you're looking to get a job, try and find a campus job.
Getting a campus job is super helpful for students, because oftentimes your boss understands that sometimes you'll have to have a shift covered due to class conflicts, midterms, or just needing more time for studying. My boss gives us all dead week off in order to have ample time to study, and so we don't have to worry about devoting too much time to work rather than doing homework and such. This really helps alleviate stress during a usually high-stress time, and it's great to be surrounded by other students who also understand, and can cover a shift when you need it. Also with campus jobs, usually you have lots of time to do homework and study during the shifts, because they're usually desk jobs, secretary work, or front desk/welcoming positions. This makes it easy to get two things done at once - you're able to work and earn money while also getting work done for classes.

5. Communicate your class schedule to your boss clearly and early - school comes first!
Around the time of registration, my boss asks for all of the class schedules of the student employees in order to make sure there are no time conflicts. She understands that school comes first for all of us, so she wants to help us have the time to not only have time for classes, but work and still be able to finish all of our homework. It's really important to communicate to your boss the time that you know you will not be able to work, rather than telling him or her later on that you can't come in for a shift. No one likes it when a person cancels suddenly, because all of your coworkers have to scramble in order to get the shift covered, and there isn't always someone who can cover the shift. If you have any other time commitments, like club meetings, make sure to also tell your boss so you know you'll be able to go to those.

6. Hold yourself accountable.
Don't slack off on homework time, or sacrifice it constantly for hanging out with friends. Yes, being social is important for your mental health, but if you find yourself always having fun and slacking off on classes, you have a problem. It's important to always put school first because you're there to get an education, and are most likely paying a lot of money for it. If you want to spend more time with friends but still get work done, you can have study dates, go to the library with friends, hang out at a coffee shop while studying, or hang out at one another's houses/apartments in order to do homework together. Doing this can actually motivate you to actually do homework, especially if you're surrounded by people who are getting work done as well.

7. But also understand that sometimes you just need a break.
At the end of the day, it's really important to check in with yourself and see how you're doing. If you feel like you're absolutely drowning in tasks, or are feeling extremely overwhelmed take a break. This can be hard to do when you're super busy, but it can make you feel better mentally and physically, so in the long run it's highly beneficial. When you feel good, you can do good. Take a nap, take a bath, read a good book, or watch some Netflix in order to de-stress; give yourself the time you need to recuperate, so that you're able to go back and tackle homework and other tasks with full energy.

Alright, those are my tips on how to balance your work, classes, and fun! It's important to do this to stay both happy and healthy, but it can be so hard in college. I hope these tips helped, and that you're able to figure your schedule out!

How do you balance your life?

Thank you so much for reading, and have a wonderful day! :)

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